Diathesis-Stress Model

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A theory that suggests the reason some people have mental health disorders and others don’t is due to a genetic predisposition combining with stressful life experiences. Instead of nature vs nurture, it proposes nature and nurture.

This theory is often used to describe the pronunciation of mental disorders, like schizophrenia, that are produced by the interaction of a vulnerable hereditary predisposition, with precipitating events in the environment. This theory was originally introduced as a means to explain some of the underlying causes of schizophrenia.

In the diathesis-stress model, a genetic vulnerability or predisposition (diathesis) interacts with the environment and life events (stressors) to trigger behaviours or psychological disorders. The greater the * Gene-environment interaction

  • Heritability
  • Nature versus nurture
  • Tabula rasa
  • The Gene Illusion

The diathesis-stress model has been reformulated in the last 20 years as the stress-vulnerability-protective factors model in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation. This model has had profound benefits for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses. It has stimulated research on the common stressors that people with disorders such as such as schizophrenia experience. More importantly, it has stimulated research and treatment on how to mitigate this stress, and therefore reduce the expression of the diathesis, by developing protective factors. Protective factors include rigorous and nuanced psychopharmacology, skill building (especially problem solving and basic communication skills) and the development of support systems for individuals with these illnesses. Even more importantly, the stress-vulnerability-protective factors model has allowed mental health workers, family members, and clients to create a sophisticated personal profile of what happens when the person is doing poorly (the diathesis), what hurts (the stressors), and what helps (the protective factors). This has resulted in more humane, effective, efficient, and empowering treatment interventions

The theory that mental and physical disorders develop from a genetic or biological predisposition for that illness (diathesis) combined with stressful conditions that play a precipitating or facilitating role. Also called diathesis–stress hypothesis (or paradigm or theory).

See also stress–vulnerability model.

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